Densho Digital Archive
Manzanar National Historic Site Collection
Title: Kay Endo Interview
Narrator: Kay Endo
Interviewer: Richard Potashin
Location: Portland, Oregon
Date: July 24, 2010
Densho ID: denshovh-ekay-01-0012

<Begin Segment 12>

RP: We were talking about the breakdown of the family, did you roam around camp with your friends? I mean, did you just wander anywhere you wanted to go?

KE: Yeah, in the summertime we as a general rule we went down to the canal and looked around and played all over. We went later on after we got a little bit more wiser we went out to the... and of course they had more crops. In fact we went out and had a potato feed one time, a couple times. You know, they dug up the potatoes and then you made a fire and then you packed the potato in mud and then you had baked potato. We could remember doing that a couple times and then eating watermelon and things like that. But that's all I could remember.

RP: Is that a watermelon raid?

KE: Yeah, they raised a good crop of watermelon then.

RP: So you were given them? You didn't go out and --

KE: I think in some cases we kind of helped ourselves. [Laughs]

RP: I forget who it was, I think it was Dick Sakurai I got a great watermelon story, somebody.

MH: I think it was.

RP: Oh, no it was John Nakada, talked about sneaking out of Heart Mountain to a watermelon patch and breaking open and just eating the heart of the watermelon. This was like two a.m. in the middle of the night, sneaking back in.

KE: In Minidoka across the canal that was private property and the property that abutted the canal they had water for some reason because any water on that side of the canal had to come from the canal that ran through Minidoka and that wasn't really opened up 'til later on but that portion was and they raised watermelon, they used to swim across the canal and then bring the watermelons back. And I think the farmers didn't appreciate that.

RP: Do you recall sneaking out? I mean, I've heard stories about that not the whole camp was fenced, part of it was fenced.

KE: Well, for all purposes Minidoka was not wired as such, it was... they may have in the beginning but later on there was no wire 'cause that's the site itself with 33,000 acres but originally portions of the camp were wired and then the canal side, there was no reason to have a fence.

RP: That was your boundary.

KE: That was a natural boundary. And then since they developed a lot of the lands for agriculture, what was the reason for a fence? And so we didn't see that much fencing, there probably was fencing but I can't really recollect it. And if there were we would have crawled through it or something. And you know, you couldn't go, where could you go? Just like being in Death Valley, right?

RP: Oh, Manzanar, right.

KE: Yeah, Manzanar. I mean the topography, so where can you go? There's nothing within fifteen, twenty miles of the campsite. And there's no grocery store.

RP: So did you get into any... I would call it trouble or difficulties as a kid in Minidoka?

KE: No, just kid trouble and I can't remember those. I think there was very little major crime in Minidoka. There was a lot of, you know, like you're saying, there's a lot of midnight appropriations, things like that, but other than that there was not... probably there's very little records of that type of activities, especially in Minidoka.

RP: One of the most important lasting impressions that people who were in camp have are the relationships that they formed there.

KE: Like we were discussing before, the relationship with the people that you met in camp regardless of what camp they went to or where they went to and especially ones that you, you know, like we played ball and went to school with, they become lasting friends even if you don't see 'em for fifteen twenty years, you say we have some, something that put you together. Like I was saying, the people I went to high school with or college with or even in the service, they're not, you don't have that relationship. Unless probably if you're in combat it would be different but otherwise it's a... that relationship is never destroyed.

RP: It's a bond that can never be broken.

KE: Right.

RP: 'Cause you went through something.

KE: Yeah, and everybody went through the same thing and regardless of what camp you're in. And to relate another story I was... they had a JACL bowling, national bowling tournament in Portland many years ago and at that time Portland was such a good host that they had transportation for the participants, you know, to and from the airport and from the hotel to the bowling alleys. And one of the most common questions was, "What camp were you in?" And how often would you hear that with say a bunch of people from the Elks or whatever convention you go to and it's like you said it was a common bond and that's where you get to hear places like, you know, like there's an argument what you should call Granada and they will always say, Amache. And so you hear all these names and even if somebody would come to our church and you knew they were in camp and the first thing you kind of ask is, "What camp were you in?" Not, where you were or what kind of work you did so there is a very strong bond.

RP: And in one respect that camp defines you in a way, where you were.

KE: Yes.

RP: For instance if you mention Tule Lake, all kinds of images and assumptions.

KE: Yeah, connotations, right.

RP: Connotations are made versus Manzanar or Minidoka.

KE: Yeah, that's where... Tule was where they put all the so-called bad people. But still the bondage is still there.

RP: Did you have any close friends who left for Tule Lake?

KE: No, in Minidoka's case it was the opposite. We had people from Tule come in. The Hood River people went, from their assembly center they were down in Pine Grove and they went to Tule and then when they separated Tule as a more of a hard core camp, the Hood River people came to Minidoka.

RP: Do you remember them arriving there?

KE: Yeah, 'cause there's men, of course, there is a lot of people from Portland that knew a lot of Hood River people so there was a common bond there.

RP: How about the geographical contrasts, you had a large population from Portland, you had a large group from Seattle? What was the interaction between those two groups?

KE: It may be... if they were going to high school, people are very adaptable. But us, we didn't really associate too much with the Seattle people, maybe in retrospect that was bad. But the younger people, especially in high school and beyond, when they ever had golf tournaments or bowling tournaments or reunions, it just like old times for them. And in my age group I think we miss that.

<End Segment 12> - Copyright © 2010 Manzanar National Historic Site and Densho. All Rights Reserved.